Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology opens up many in-demand professional possibilities, and pursuing a master’s degree further expands the diverse array of careers that extend beyond the traditional scope of psychology.
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics (BLS) psychology-related careers are projected to increase by six percent from 2022 to 2032—which is three percent higher than the national average. This rise in psychology career opportunities aren’t just in counseling or conventional career paths though, they also include numerous alternative paths that you may not be aware of yet.
If you’re interested in leveraging your psychology education in alternative career paths, here’s an overview of why a psychology degree is versatile and how applied psychology can pave the way to alternative careers for psychology majors.
Is a Psychology Degree Versatile?
Despite the misconception that a psychology degree offers a narrow career path post-graduation, it can actually unlock numerous professional doors. This is largely because of the breadth of skills an education focused on human behavior can develop.
“All of these skills are going to bring a different focus on psychology, which is going to be less about counseling and a little bit more about research methods,” says Christie Rizzo, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences.
Some of these interdisciplinary skills include:
- Research skills
- Critical thinking
- Data analysis
While many psychology graduates use these skills and competencies in the most common career paths, such as counseling and academic jobs, there are other options if you aren’t interested in working with clients.
“We’re definitely seeing organizations—like nonprofit research centers—looking for professionals knowledgeable in applied psychology,” Rizzo says. “This is because they need support in applying for grants to do research projects from people with applied psychology training.”
Applied psychology is the practical application of psychological principles and theories from other types of psychology—like clinical, counseling, and health psychology—to address real-world challenges. Through a curriculum that has a more holistic view of psychology research methods, applied psychology can prepare you for a career in almost any industry.
5 Alternative Career Paths for Psychology Majors
Most psychology degree holders have a strong background in research, which is very valuable to most employers in today’s digital world.
“We’re constantly presented with studies and research,” Rizzo says. “And then we’re expected to accept the information that’s given to us. But students that come out of an applied psychology program are really able to do a deeper dive and evaluate information at a more sophisticated level.”
This doesn’t just lead to research-related jobs though. Here are five alternative careers you can pursue with a psychology degree that you may not know of.
1. Marketing Manager
Marketing managers are professionals responsible for planning, implementing, and overseeing marketing strategies that promote an organization’s products or services. While these positions often have an educational background in marketing or communications, recent trends in market research have opened the door to psychology degree holders.
For example, neuromarketing, the application of neuroscience and psychological principles to understand and influence consumer behavior, enables marketing managers to apply research on brain activity and consumer behavior to improve marketing strategies.
These insights, beyond traditional survey methods, allows marketing managers to fine-tune their marketing strategies to align more closely with consumer preferences, emotions, and motivations. As a result, more companies are looking for marketers who can interpret this psychological data to better inform future marketing campaigns.
2. Career Advisor
A career advisor is an expert who offers guidance on educational and professional choices, helping individuals navigate their career paths through personalized advice, skill assessments, and job search strategies.
Most career advisors don’t share the same educational background, but considering the role psychology can plan in career counseling, it isn’t surprising that many employers want professionals with a psychology degree.
For example, many career advisors use personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). These tests can help advisors identify an individual’s interests, strengths, and weaknesses that can offer valuable insights into potential career paths.
Career advisors don’t just help identify possible career paths, they can also leverage stress management and resilience-building strategies from psychology to guide clients through the challenges of the job market.
3. Child Development Specialist
Average Annual Salary: $51,399
Child development specialists are professionals who specialize in understanding and facilitating the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth of children. They utilize knowledge from developmental psychology to support the well-being of children who need support.
One of the most common career paths for psychology professionals who want to work with children is school psychology. However, child development specialists take a different approach in their support of children, considering a much wider lens of psychology compared to school psychologists.
For example, child development specialists specialize in understanding and promoting holistic child development, creating individualized plans for children outside of their educational experience.
This means they can work in a variety of settings in addition to schools, including:
- Daycare centers
- Children’s hospitals
- Community service organizations
Therefore, this career path is an excellent option for those interested in supporting children both in and outside of the classroom.
4. Health Education Specialist
A health education specialist is an expert who designs, implements, and evaluates health education programs by utilizing knowledge of public health and behavioral science to promote wellness. This is mostly done through applied psychology application.
“Health education organizations that focus on creating prevention programs in communities, schools, etc. are definitely looking for employees who have this kind of training,” Rizzo says.
Through the application of psychological theories, they use their understanding of decision-making to promote behavior changes that can lead to healthier lifestyle choices. In addition, the application of social cognitive theories helps specialists analyze and address the social and environmental factors influencing health behaviors within communities.
5. Human Resources Specialist
Human resources specialists are professionals responsible for managing various aspects of an organization’s employment competencies, including recruitment, training, benefits administration, and conflict resolution. They ensure workplaces function properly by leveraging organizations’ human resources policies and practices.
Most HR professionals have an educational background in either human resources or organizational leadership, but many human resources specialists leverage psychology in their everyday work.
For example, most HR specialists are involved in an organization’s hiring process. The interview process and talent assessment is largely informed by the principles of industrial-organizational psychology. This means HR specialists don’t just focus on a candidate’s skills and qualifications, but their behavioral tendencies, problem-solving approaches, and interpersonal skills as well.
How to Choose the Right Career Path For You
There are several ways you can determine which alternative psychology career path is right for you, but perhaps the most important factors to consider are your goals, desired salary, and educational background.
When it comes to your career goals, it’s important to think about where you want to work. For example, professionals interested in working with children are often confined to career paths related to schools and community organizations. Psychology graduates who want to work in research can gain employment in settings like nonprofit organizations or government agencies.
Earning potential can also influence which path is right for you. According to BLS, psychologists earn a median annual salary of $85,330. If you hope to earn more, a career in marketing or public policy can offer a much higher average annual salary.
However, all of this isn’t possible without the right educational background. While a bachelor’s degree in psychology can be an effective stepping stone to these career paths, earning a master’s degree in applied psychology can make a big difference.
“For most of these careers, we see undergraduate psychology majors go up against applicants with a master’s,” Rizzo says. “And the skills developed in a master’s degree in applied psychology are so applicable to those fields that I think it would make that master’s-level professional more desirable.”
These degree programs offer numerous benefits that can provide additional clarity in your career search. For example, career advising from psychology professionals in the field can give you the insight needed to make the right choice for you.
Take the Next Step in Your Career
Earning a degree in psychology doesn’t have to put you in a predefined box. While there are several fulfilling careers in counseling psychology, a background in human behavior can help you become a desirable candidate in various industries.
Earning a master’s degree in applied psychology can ensure your psychology background can be leveraged in these alternative career paths. Programs like Northeastern’s MS in Applied Psychology prepare students for the right career path in as little as one year. Through exposure to real-world psychology applications, and psychology professionals from these industries, you’ll be able to determine the right alternative career path for you.
“You’ll be able to talk to people in the careers that you’re potentially interested in,” Rizzo says. “This can be helpful because sometimes the career you thought you wanted is not what you think it is.”